Special coverage of US elections from Abu Dhabi and Washington

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Professor Raymond Tanter appeared in Washington DC on an Abu Dhabi News Channel, Sky News Arabia. He debated another scholar on 7 November 2016, about Iran and Saudi Arabia in English, which was translated into Arabic. The debate may be viewed at 31:00 minutes out of about a 51:00 minutes segment of Sky News “Special Coverage of U.S. Elections from Abu Dhabi and Washington.”

One of the themes of Tanter’s comments in the debate centered on remarks in his post in The Fikra Forum of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Preparing for Regime Change in Iran. The statements were by His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia; the Prince complimented the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), saying that,

“Maryam Rajavi, your endeavor to rid your people of the Khomeinist cancer is an historic epic that…will remain inscribed in the annals of history.”

Tanter pointed on that on July 9, 2016, he observed a rally in Paris at which Prince Turki put forth what has become known as the “Turki Option,” i.e., regime change in Iran by the people.

When the crowd chanted, “The people want regime change,” the Prince joined the crowd in Arabic saying, “I, too, want regime change” in Iran, a remark that brought the house down.

The Iranians and US: A Shared Civilization Marred by Revolutionary ‘Identity’ Policies,” Turki’s talk, contains an argument that contrasts to the historically risk-averse nature of the Saudis, signaling the rising temperature of the cold war against revolutionary Iran.

Prince Turki stated that, “The Khomeinist regime has brought only destruction, sectarianism, conflict and bloodshed – not only to their own people in Iran, but across the Middle East. This is not the way forward.”

Then what is the way?

First, limit U.S. “engagement” with Tehran: Hillary Clinton is likely to take a hard line against Iran, as she did in the nuclear deal’s preliminary talks while Secretary of State. And if Donald Trump were elected, he pledged to renegotiate the deal, which hardly favors engagement.  Tanter mentioned how Iran was the problem in Syria and should not be a part of the solution there. In this respect, he used a new book by the NCRI entitled, “How Iran Fuels the Syria War” to demonstrate the widespread presence of Iranian-controlled on the ground troops in Syria.

Second, enhance existing sanctions. This action reverts to Republican-inspired coercive diplomacy that brought Iran to the table. In the spring 2016, the House of Representatives approved three new bills against Iran: blocking Iran’s access to the dollar outside of the U.S. financial system, sanctioning any sector of Tehran’s economy that directly or indirectly has applications for Iran’s ballistic missile program, and prohibiting Washington from buying heavy water from Iran.

Third, embrace regime change, because sanctions alone are insufficient to keep the regime in compliance. Publicly backing the Iranian opposition for regime change is the “Turki Option,” and the one that better ensures long-term compliance because the Iranian dissidents do not favor nuclear weapons in word and deed.

As the Prince attempts to redraw the arc of history, now is the time for the West to join the coalition that to shape the future.

Click here for the Arabic version of “Preparing for Regime Change in Iran.”

To watch the interview please go to: bit.ly/2ep4YXf

The Stream : US moves toward delisting MEK as ‘terrorist’ group

President of the Iran Policy Committee, Professor Raymond Tanter, was interviewed on 21 May on Al Jazeera’s The Stream about the United States moving to delist the main Iranian opposition that rejects clerical rule as a “terrorist” group. Check out the video below or see the original link from The Stream’s website here.

Regime Change from within Iran to Counter Tehran’s “Talking about Talks”

Yukiya Amano

Yukiya Amano, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency
Photo: http://www.iaea.org

Head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Yukiya Amano, made premature remarks about “progress” in getting Tehran to discuss inspections of what may be a nuclear weapons trigger.  Eager for “good news,” the Western media  became overly optimistic about the 23-24 May 2012 Baghdad Talks between the Iranian regime and the major powers.Underlying this hopefulness is that diplomacy is buying time and hence delaying any plans for Israel to launch attacks against Iranian nuclear sites. Iran rejects a new package of proposals put forward by the powers, seeks to get into a “proposal-counter proposal” process, and reverts to its pattern of  “talking about talks.” Iran demands sanctions relief and a wider agenda, while the major powers insist on discussing Iran’s nuclear file without such relief at this stage. Not surprisingly, the two sides agreed to hold a fourth round of talks in Moscow on 18-19 June 2012.

In the context of endless negotiations, the military option arises again as the default alternative. But what about a third option—regime change from within Iran—in addition to placing added emphasis on the military alternative as the May Baghdad round of diplomacy failed like prior rounds in Geneva during December 2010 and Istanbul in April 2012?

Critics answer that before regime change can occur, Iran’s “zone of immunity” from attack will increase as it uses time to make nuclear sites relatively invulnerable to attack. But the Islamic Republic is already using “diplomatic time” to become more immune to airstrikes, while the regime change clock is barely ticking.

To accelerate regime change from within requires Jerusalem and Washington to have friends in Tehran, which is the topic of an article Raymond Tanter wrote as an op-ed for the 22 May 2012 Jerusalem Post,  a slightly revised version of which appears below.

Jerusalem, Tehran, and Washington

22 May 2012

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN THE JERUSALEM POST

Ahmadinejad at nuclear ceremony in Tehran

Ahmadinejad at nuclear ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Reuters

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pulls main political groups into a wall-to-wall coalition, he is in position to choose either military attacks on Iranian nuclear sites or to wait for international sanctions and covert action to compel Tehran to cease progress on a nuclear weapons capability. At issue, however, is whether these are the only alternatives available.

A third option involves regime change from within Iran, of the kind to make less likely pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. Such an approach requires Jerusalem and Washington to have friends in Tehran.

While the enemy of my enemy might still be my enemy, assume for the moment the conventional wisdom is correct: An enemy of the Iranian regime is a good candidate to be a friend of Israel.

In fact, the main Iranian dissident group that rejects clerical rule in Tehran, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), reaches out to Washington and does not oppose Israel.

By contrast, the Iranian Green Movement faction, headed by Mir Hossein Mousavi, accepts clerical rule and has a history of anti- Israel activities, such as calling for it to be annihilated.

As the U.S. State Department decides whether to remove the MeK from its terrorist list, the drive to be delisted would benefit from a push from the pro-Israel community. Because delisting would send an implicit but unmistakable signal to Tehran that regime change from within is on the table, one would think the pro-Israel community would be active in the fight for removal of the MeK from the list. But there is no sign of the community’s influence in the delisting process. The community, however, is very active in the sanctions process.

As sanctions pressure Iran to make concessions at the May 23-24 Baghdad Talks on Iran’s nuclear file, it is useful to note that Mousavi of the Iranian Green Movement said consequences of giving up Iran’s nuclear program would be “irreparable.”

In contrast, the MeK opposes Iranian production of nuclear weapons; and to back up its words, the MeK reveals Tehran’s covert activities to procure uranium enrichment and weaponization equipment. In issuing blockbuster intelligence on Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons capability, the MeK laid the framework for international sanctions imposed on Iran.

There is an assumption among pundits of an alliance of convenience between Israel and the MeK, but it rests on thin evidence of unnamed officials and an Iranian intelligence agent, Massoud Khodabandeh.

Allegations of a covert alignment works in favor of those who would keep the MeK on the U.S. terrorist list, weakening its ability to help build a coalition to remove the clerical regime from power in Tehran. While uncertainty about such an alignment may reinforce Israel’s deterrent posture vis a vis Iran, it may be only a Pyrrhic achievement in view of costs incurred in inadvertently maintaining the MeK on the U.S. terrorist list.

In a research trip to Iraq during 2008, I reported on interviews and documents that corroborated a tight relationship between the MeK and the US military in Iraq, but not with American diplomats. In addition, I reported how Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) spreads false narratives about the MeK, some of which US diplomats echo.

In October 2011, MeK-supplied information reinforced U.S. intelligence to expose Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force for plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and blow up the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

That disclosure reinforced additional sanctions the U.S. Treasury placed on the IRGC-QF three days earlier.

And what is Tehran’s response when confronted with evidence of its complicity in the assassination plot? The Ministry of Intelligence and Security blamed Israel and the United States, while also claiming MeK involvement.

To its credit, the State Department promptly denied MeK responsibility, accused Tehran of “fabricating news stories,” and of spreading “disinformation” to exploit skepticism about the plot.

While it might make some strategic sense for Israel to remain silent about any involvement with the MeK and sit on the sidelines in the group’s effort to be removed from the U.S. terrorist list, there is no excuse for the pro-Israel community to refrain from seeking removal of the MeK from the list and helping to allay suffering of its supporters in Iraq, who languish under prison-like conditions, hoping to be resettled in friendly countries rather than forcibly repatriated to Iran.

The State Department has said it was looking favorably at delisting the MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, to another location, Camp Liberty.

There are about 1,200 MeK members remaining in Ashraf and some 2,000 already in Liberty.

But the fly in the ointment is that the State Department also said it might still rule against delisting the MeK if evidence turned up of a capability and intent to commit terrorism in Ashraf after complete relocation to Liberty, a condition described by former U.S. military commanders as “absurd,” because they supervised inspection of Ashraf, it was under American military control from 2003-2009, and Iraqi military monitoring and control thereafter.

Such a condition is a virtual invitation for Iranian agents to plant weapons in Ashraf, which then could be used by the State Department as indicators of capability and intent for the MeK to commit terrorism.

It is in this final phase of decision making at the State Department where the American pro-Israel community might make a difference, but it sits quietly on the sidelines of an epic struggle: whether Israeli and U.S. policy should include not only talks, sanctions, and threats to take military action but also a “regime change from within” option for Iran.

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The writer was a frequent Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is Emeritus Professor at the University of Michigan, and former member of the Senior Staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan-Bush administration.

U.S. and Israel Should Push for Regime Change in Iran

FLAWED MILITARY OPTION BELONGS ON THE TABLE, BUT REGIME CHANGE FROM WITHIN IRAN MAY MAKE WAR UNNECESSARY

For original post, see: US News and World Report, Debate Club, 5 March 2012

Washington should not discourage Jerusalem from attacking Iran unless the consideration that “all options are on the table” also includes internal regime change. In President Obama’s 2012 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, diplomatic, economic, and military options do not include regime change from within.

Earlier, a newspaper quoted a senior American intelligence official saying regime change was a goal of U.S. sanctions against Iran; but the administration pushed back, resulting in a revised story claiming only “public ire” rather than “regime change” as a purpose of new sanctions.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

So long as the Iranian regime’s survival is not at stake, it is unlikely to abandon its quest for the bomb. There is a misconception that internal regime change will not produce results before Iran’s nuclear facilities are invulnerable to attack. But that view overlooks how fast regimes without popular legitimacy crumble if the people receive even minimum support from the international community.

Because of mixed signals coming from the Obama administration about red lines that would prompt American military action, Washington lacks a credible threat to use military force. The White House and the Defense Department describe the U.S. goal as preventing Iran from “acquiring nuclear weapons,” but the State Department says the purpose is to stop Iran from having “nuclear weapons capability.” Such differences are mixed messages that detract from the credibility of the “all options are on the table” threat to use military force.

[See pictures of Iran participating in war games.]

If the Obama administration removed the unwarranted and unwise terrorist tag from the main Iranian organization rejecting clerical rule—the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran—this group could enhance its place in Iran as leaders of internal regime change. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an Iranian exile group that seeks to overthrow the current regime, is under siege in Camp Ashraf, Iraq by Baghdad under the sway of Tehran and because of an Iraqi ruse that “terrorists” deserve mistreatment; consequently, these Iranian dissidents are hamstrung from helping lead the pro-democracy forces in Iran. Because the PMOI was a core part of the coalition that brought down the Shah of Iran in 1979, it has skills to topple the present clerical regime.

Crippling economic sanctions, credible threat of military action, and a policy of internal regime change can prevent Iran from actually developing a nuclear weapon or having a nuclear weapons capability; operating together, they can make actual military action unnecessary by either Jerusalem or Washington.

Photo via US News and World Report Debate Club